I’m not quite sure where to post this as I am not sure if we are dealing with a training, behavioral, or physical issue. Also, apologies for the lengthiness of this post (kudos to those that read on).
My mother’s horse has had a very peculiar issue with ‘head-caulking’ or ‘twisting’ his head to the right while undersaddle at the trot or canter. I don’t have many other words to describe it - he literally, twists his head sideways (always to the right) on either lead/diagonal and even on the way to a jump which, as you can assume, makes finding a distance very difficult!
She purchased him back in September and he has been doing this on and off since, as of late however, it seems to have gotten worse and more persistent. The head twisting will occur outside, inside, during the day, in the evening, and does it with different riders on his back. It does get worse (persists at it longer and more often) when he’s ‘fresh’. Last week, she saw him do it in his stall for the first time. Odd. We will be free lunging him tomorrow to see if he does it then.
I do not have video of him at the moment, but I found a YouTube video of someone else’s horse doing something similar, you only need to watch the first 40 seconds to see it.
**again, not my video – purely used as an example**
Traveller jan 2010 - YouTube!
Since this has started, my mother has done the following;
- Teeth checked
- New saddle (he had back adhesions from a previously ill fitted saddle when she purchased him so she is very careful to use a properly fitted saddle and saddle pads)
- Chiropractor (has been seeing an improvement with the adhesions and has not found anything else significantly related to this issue)
- Numerous bits at no avail.
- Farrier has checked feet
- Treated him for ulcers
- All other tack fits well (martingale, bridle, girth, boots etc.)
- Not to mention, we have tried all the gimmicks we can think of; full body massages prior and after working, Back-On-Track products, liniments, and so on.
- If it is a behavioral issue, she has not gone very far with ‘training’ this out of him as we would like to rule out anything physically wrong first.
- He is a happy, healthy, 7 year old Hannovarian gelding with a very sweet disposition, gets daily turnout and has never been lame since she’s owned him. He does get grumpy while currying/brushing and can also be a bit girthy. His job now is a Hunter, but was Evented prior to mom’s ownership. Undersaddle, he is usually light and supple and likes a bit of support. He can bend and flex well, and moves well in general. He’s still a bit green, but overall he’s a well rounded, good boy.
- With exception to the back adhesion the only other physical problem he has had, are some hives. Our vet did a scraping but found nothing significant so treated him for a week to see if they would improve or not. The hives disappeared with treatment, but the head-twisting didn’t change.
I don’t believe its allergy related head shaking, as he hasn’t been itching his nose or sneezing any more than the average horse. He has also been checked for TMJ. At this point my mother is really starting to feel frustrated; understandably. So where do we go from here? X-rays, nerve blocking...??? If you suspect it’s behavioral or a learned habit, what are your suggestions for training? Advise please and thanks!!!